Cuba & Costa Rica Blog
About this blog
Written by Cuba and Costa Rica expert Christopher P. Baker, this blog will update readers on life in these two diverse and exciting countries.
- Last blog post on Costa Rica and Cuba
- First-ever group motorcycle tours of Cuba successful
- Cuba’s Mariel port readying for Panama Canal expansion
- Musings on wildlife encounters on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula
- Cuba’s Steam Trains puffing their last gasp
- My top five thrilling activities in Costa Rica
- Cuba’s fun February festivals include Harleys, Books, Cigars
- Five top volcano viewing experiences in Costa Rica
- New road along Costa Rica / Nicaraguan border mired
- Cuba’s Hotel Campoamor at Cojímar to be restored?
- Cuban revolutionary Celia Sánchez honored in new book
- Christmas challenge for Costa Rica’s sexually abused girls
- Costa Rica opens Chinatown in downtown San José
- David Soul films Hemingway’s car restoration in Cuba
- National Geographic Expeditions receives license for Cuba tours
Top must-have musical experiences in Cuba
Author Norman Mailer once scolded President Kennedy for the Bay of Pigs defeat by asking: “Wasn’t there anyone around to give you the lecture on Cuba? Don’t you sense the enormity of your mistake—you invade a country without understanding its music?”
Music—the pulsating undercurrent of Cuban life—is everywhere.
Three days ago, members of National Geographic Expeditions’ 10-day “Cuba: Discover its Culture & People” educational exchange program were treated to a medley of musical treats, and a demonstration of many of the finest qualities that I love and respect about Cuba, namely:
• The astonishing number of accomplished musicians throughout Cuba.
• The appreciation that Cuban society demonstrates for a cross-spectrum of musical forms, from danzón and classical to salsa and son.
• The way the Cuban State supports, nourishes, and sustains musical culture.
Arriving in Cienfuegos from Havana, we were delighted to explore the main square—Parque Marti—just as the Banda Provincial de Cienfuegos struck up in the park’s bandstand. The town band echoed Cuba’s polyglot populace. Black… White... Mulatto... Young and old… Together pumping out magnificent tunes on their clarinets, bassoons, and tubas. The band entertains the locals in the park every Thursday at 3pm; on Sundays it plays on the Prado (Calle 37).
Moments later we stepped through the portal of the Museo Histórico Provincial for a truly jaw-dropping treat—a choral rendition of ten songs by the Cantores de Cienfuegos, under the direction of 28-year-old Honey Moreira Abreu. As I said in giving thanks on behalf of the group: ”I was born in England, where we have many fine cathedrals and outstanding choirs and choral groups. You are the equal of any… I think everyone here will agree when I say, as an atheist, that today we heard the voices of angels.”
In our Q&A educational exchange with Cantores de Cienfuegos, we learned about the choir’s foundation; the requirements for auditioning and being welcomed into the group; and details of the group's training regimen as well as their well-deserved international esteem (last year, it performed in Switzerland and Spain, and this summer will tour France and, hopefully, Seattle).
The crème-de-la-crème, however, came after dinner when we visited Cienfuegos’ Casa de la Cultura for a performance by three children’s performance groups. Cuban children are treated with great indulgence by the state, which teaches kids magnificent values and supports cultural programs such as Pequeños Gigantes. These “Little Giants,” who ranged in age from four to ten, drew tears, laughs and huge smiles as they danced the mambo, Cu-bop (a fusion of bebop and Afro-Cuban rhythms) and traditional Yoruba dances.
Here are five other musical experiences not to miss while in Cuba:
1) Son in Santiago de Cuba’s Casa de la Trova
2) Live Beatles music at the Submarino Amarillo, in Havana.
3) ‘Buena Vista Social Club’ at Café Taberna Benny Moré, Havana
4) Tropicana cabaret, Havana
5) Opera at Havana’s Gran Teatro
Now that you’re ready to travel to Cuba, buy Moon Cuba
For further information on Havana, buy Moon Spotlight Havana.
Learn more about Christopher P. Baker.
Disclosure: I occasionally accept free or discounted travel when it coincides with my editorial goals. However, my opinion is never for sale. The opinions you see in Cuba & Costa Rica Journal are my unbiased reflection of the good, the bad, and the ugly
Copyright © Christopher P. Baker